Given how rarely I update this now I suspect my occasional extended absences draw little attention but this one can be explained away by an impromptu post-birthday break to possibly my favourite city - Edinburgh.
I'll leave off details about the flights. Suffice to say both reasonable as flights go, but I still hate flying. My base for the trip was Motel One
on the corner of Market Street and Cockburn Street. A very central location thankfully although it was a peculiar place to say the least, with rooms having no wardrobes, only two badly positioned electrical sockets and a television that only worked properly when it felt like it. Seemingly it was part of a German chain as all signs and handouts were primarily in German but the rooms were certainly well designed, if a touch minimalist for my taste. The inevitable problem of keeping milk cool also struck (as it does it nearly every hotel) and my twin solutions - filling the bin with cold water or thrusting the milk bottle into the toilet - both proved unsuccessful with the remains of one Poundland effort even ending up curdled. Still, I didn't come here to talk about milk, did I?
So after arriving at the hotel on Monday I set off on my travels, with the Gorgie area of the city my destination. I had no previous dealings with that side of town but had designed a route from Google Maps and was surprised to find that, for once, my plans proved fool-proof. I arrived at Tynecastle in good time and got my ticket for the forthcoming League Cup match between Heart of Midlothian and Queen of the South. The Hibernian-Stranraer game was also an option but I figured I had previously been to Easter Road and that match was on Tuesday, for which I had other plans. The rest of the day was spent arseing about the familiar old streets, battling with an unseasonable heatwave and struggling in vain to find any supermarkets. Is there a law in Scotland banning supermarkets within three miles of the city centre or something? A nice haddock supper made for a fine repast that evening although it left the room ponging somewhat. Such is life.
Tuesday, as stated, was already earmarked for a specific purpose and that was a day's excursion to Glasgow. I am by no means a strong road traveller but the relatively short coach journey between the two cities played severe havoc with my stomach and a boak was avoided by the skin of my teeth. Glasgow is a city I have criticised on here before and I stand by those criticisms - it is horrendously ugly, having obviously been smacked about by town planners in a similar fashion to Belfast (if you must put new buildings beside old, at least try to match the architecture styles a bit) and the frankly ridiculous levels of drunks and junkies wandering about, regardless of the time of day, is very tedious and makes the whole place seem rather unsafe. However I still enjoyed my time there as it has greatly improved as a shopping venue and I could happily have killed a couple more hours there, even if the habit of checkout people saying "first, please" instead of "next, please" struck me as rather odd. One big gripe though - my God, have the accents ever been diluted! I'm a big fan of the Scottish accent in general, it being one of only two British isles accents I like, but a lot of the Glasgow kids sound like they're from the East End of London these days. Such a shame; you have a lot to answer for Eastenders
My old stamping ground from 2011, Leith, was my first port of call on Wednesday and I meandered down that seedy old road nostalgically, notwithstanding the incessant pishing rain. Keeping on the two years ago riff, I spent the afternoon knocking about what I believe is called Newington (an altogether more refined area than the run-down republican interface area of the same name in Belfast) before heading back to the hotel. My plans to get a self-made salad for lunch were again thwarted as, just like two years ago, self-service salad bars are still absent from supermarkets despite being as common in Ireland as drunk people. Still, to each his own I suppose. That evening was the match and thankfully the rain had finally done one as I didn't fancy taking the relatively long trot out to Tynecastle in the middle of a downpour. As I took my seat in the Main Stand near the halfway line (always the best spot) I drank in the scene. Tynecastle is more dilapidated than Easter Road, although to be fair Hearts are in dire straits financially so it's only to be expected. Still it's a grand old ground nevertheless and credit to the Queen of the South supporters, who made an ungodly row throughout despite being only a small section of the 8,000 strong crowd. As to the match itself
it was, quite frankly, bloody brilliant. Hearts played below their capabilities and the Doonhamers inevitably raised their game making it a blood and guts affair in which Hearts lost the lead three times before going through on a penalty shootout. They both went above and beyond in the entertainment stakes and I left the stadium exhilarated, having watched what was probably the best match as a spectacle that I had ever attended. It was well after eleven before I got back to Princes Street but, as always seems to happen at Edinburgh matches, an unofficial walking bus of supporters ensured total safety in numbers.
Thursday brought a welcome return to fine weather and I decided to get a bus day ticket and explore a few places I didn't know. My first port of call was Corstorphine, a suburb near the airport, and a pretty place the former village was. I killed a while there before returning to the main drag and boarding a bus for Musselburgh. I fancied a spell by the seaside and it seemed as good a place as any, although after nearly three quarters of an hour on the bus and still nowhere near the place I gave up and decamped at an out of town retail park by the name of Fort Kinnaird. As a monument to capitalist consumption it was slightly unnerving and its complete lack of facilities played havoc with my suddenly weak bladder but still, it was somewhere different and I had been mixing Musselburgh up with Helensburgh anyway. My third port of call was Ocean Terminal, which I felt compelled to investigate as it seemingly had a bus running to it every thirty seconds. When I got there it was yet another shopping centre, although this time a vast one nestled in a gentrified area reminiscent of the horrific Titanic Quarter in Belfast. My only thought was that a lot of fine historic dockland must have died to make way for such a monstrosity. To finish the day I partook of the local delicacies by devouring a haggis supper, which I was amazed to find consisted of a long sausage shaped slab of haggis bunged in batter and deep fried. Like haggis isn't fatty enough on its own! Probably not a good idea to eat offal with my blood problems but what the hell, I'm getting needle-stabbed next Friday so they can worry about it then (expect ferritin levels in the mid hundreds).
Home today, albeit with a little time for wandering around in Greyfriars
and the surrounding area. All in all though it was a wonderful little break. I don't visit Edinburgh that often but whenever I do I'm always reminded why I'm so fond of the place. A wonderful city and the perfect place to dawdle a few days away.